So I’m in this temple in Nepal, walking through a maze of crumbing shrines, throngs of worshippers, monkeys underfoot like kids at a church picnic and clusters of holy men. Many are ascetics who have renounced society to seek enlightenment through self-deprivation, such as wandering the world nearly naked, smeared with ashes and refraining from cutting their hair and/or fingernails for years at a time. (As a spiritual lightweight, I have already determined this is not my path.)
Just when I’m thinking this place can’t get any nuttier, a guy dressed in nothing but a loincloth comes up to me and says, “I can lift an 80-kilo stone with my penis.”
It is definitely one of the more original pick-up lines I’ve ever heard.
“If you pay me ten dollars,” he adds, “I’ll show you.”
Now, I have a firm policy against paying to see penises under any circumstances, so I just keep on walking. But my new friend sticks to my side, repeating his offer over and over.
“Ten dollars. I can lift an 80-kilo stone with my–”
Finally I turn to him and say, “That’s nothing. My husband can do the same thing. And I don’t have to pay him for it.”
My new friend gives up and walks away. I feel kind of bad for lying to him so early in our acquaintance, but I really don’t think our relationship is going anywhere. Best to end it now.
A year later, at a cocktail party at a swanky spiritual retreat center, a group of us are swapping travel stories, and it turns out one of my companions had encountered the same spiritual weightlifter – and not only forked over the ten dollars but had captured the moment in a photo.
I am naturally agog to know the details, but my cocktail companion is strangely reluctant to give a full demonstration in a room full of people neither of us knows well. But I did manage to get a copy of the photo, and you can see for yourself how it was managed. I’ve since read that it’s an advanced form of self-punishment.
I’ve also read that this particular religious practice hasn’t caught on in a big way. I can’t imagine why.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain, to which I've just returned after a 16-month absence due to the pandemic.
As I resettle in Seville, my favorite city on the planet, I'll keep you posted on how the pandemic has reshaped the landscape and where to go to find fun, adventure, and great food in this quirky, engaging city.
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